An early pit road incident, untimely cautions and long green-flag runs relegated Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team to a 21st-place finish in the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Burton started the 301-lap affair from the 25th position and quickly moved into the top 20 by lap 17.
On the first round of green-flag pit stops on lap 65, the No. 31 Chevrolet and another competitor mad contact while exiting the pit box, causing a tire rub on the Caterpillar machine. The minor damage never became a factor with on-track performance, but the Richard Childress Racing driver lost valuable track position and dropped one lap down to the leader due to the delay on pit road.
After the first caution-flag period of the day, Burton was determined to battle his way into the "lucky dog" position and get back on the lead lap. A 98-lap green-flag run, however, gave the leader ample time to lap several cars ahead of the 21-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner, which took the Caterpillar Chevrolet out of the 'lucky dog' position and pinned Burton one lap down.
On the ensuing restart, the South Boston, Va., native immediately drove by three competitors and, once again, settled into the "lucky dog" position in 21st-place. Bad luck struck the No. 31 team again on lap 235 when the caution flag was displayed for debris. While Burton was running in the lucky dog position on the track just before the caution flag was displayed, a handful of top-five contenders pitted, putting those drivers one lap down to the leader and taking away the "lucky dog" pass from the No. 31 team.
The remainder of the event finished caution-free while the 45-year-old driver turned top-12 lap times while running in the "lucky dog" position for the remainder of the afternoon. Never receiving another caution-flag period to get his lap back, Burton passed three additional competitors on the track and brought home the No. 31 Chevrolet in the 21st position. Burton now sits 19th in Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.
JEFF BURTON QUOTE:
"We had a pit road incident early in the race that really set us back. We had a top-12 car throughout the day, but couldn't get a caution when we needed it. The speed was there, but those long green-flag runs hurt us trying to get that lap back. I can't say I'm not disappointed because the Caterpillar Chevrolet was good in race trim all weekend. We learned a lot."